Application development on cloud-based platform entails your development team to acquire suitable skill sets. Despite its challenges, it distinctly leverages the capability of your organization. Application development in cloud can be done in SaaS (Software as a Service), IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service).
According to a recent IT spending survey by Cowen and Company, application development, managed services, ERP implementations and cloud are the highest spending priorities for enterprises in 2015. And 53% enterprises plan to purchase IaaS services from an IT service provider. The statistics clearly indicate that cloud application development is becoming crucial for organizations’ IT mix.
From enabling developers to take virtual snapshots of troubling applications, leveraging economies of scale, improving productivity, cost savings and lifecycle management; developing applications in cloud comes with multifold benefits for your organization. Applications developed in cloud are often Java-based. And there are unique set of challenges faced by Java developers during development.
Challenges faced by developers
1. Fragmented data
As the business grows, the number of cloud applications deployed increase. Every application solves a different business problem. But this has resulted in fragmentation of business data across various disconnected applications. Applications are increasingly being built on low-code platforms. Though data can be easily tracked and may look to be at the same place, it is actually fragmented.
This problem can be solved to some extent by writing custom point-to-point integration in APIs or by adopting a standalone cloud integration platform like Zapier, Dell Boomi or Informatica. Nonetheless, this task does require specialized skill set in the development team.
2. Understanding application resource dependencies
A cloud application often runs in a distributed environment with at least two servers deployed for operation. The primary focus for a developer is to understand application service dependencies. Application service dependencies include databases, message servers etc. In a cloud environment, a number of services interact amongst each other and developers can’t be sure what IP address application uses. On the contrary, in a traditional application development environment, identification of resources is easy and a developer knows what service is being used by application on deployment.
As a result, the developer is required to understand service usability and be able to locate resources. Quite often, developers use a discovery pattern to find the services. In Java application environment, the developer gets JNDI (Java Naming and Directory Interface) that helps in locating the services required. Resource mapping during deployment helps developers to avoid hard coding by following a logical sequence.
3. Addressing horizontal scalability
In cloud computing, horizontal scalability is the ability of the application to connect with multiple hardware or software such as servers when required. The connection enables the whole system to function as a single logical unit. Cloud applications, owing to their parental nature, are designed to be horizontally scalable but unfortunately not all applications are horizontally scalable. This issue can be resolved by writing applications in a manner that renders them potentially scalable.
4. Precautionary measures
Localizing data storage can be fatal to your cloud infrastructure. The essence of cloud computing is to have distributed data management to dodge server failures. Furthermore, developers must rely on location pattern to abstract physical IPs rather than using physical IP or disk-based locators to find out resources to be used in the application.
5. Testing application in cloud
Developers often face the challenge of testing the application in cloud environment. The transition process of application from local environment to cloud environment for testing is not free from glitches. Only a smooth transition will ensure a productive development cycle. Use of appropriate testing tools is important for a smooth transition.
6. Inability to differentiate
Since majority of the organizations are relying on the same technology and same cloud-based platforms, it has become difficult for them to offer unique features to their clients. This undermines their ability to gain competitive edge over others. Though development of cloud applications is cheaper and efficient, developers need to devise new capabilities, new strategies and follow an innovation-driven approach to entice their clients.
Advantages of application development in cloud
The leading cloud-based development platforms in PaaS and IaaS include Google App Engine, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Salesforce.com. Metrics review has already proven that cloud application development is loaded with benefits. There are assured cost savings with high system efficiency. Following are the advantages of cloud application development.
1. Save application development and deployment time
The application development time in cloud is significantly lowered owing to the cloud platform’s ability to streamline the development process. The platform is further capable to quickly get development assets online. Traditionally, development of custom application used to take months as additional components were required to develop a complete application. However, with cloud computing services, developers can quickly avail all the required software and tools in the cloud working their way out more efficiently. Furthermore, cloud applications can be deployed quickly by getting into production mode thus enabling less time to market.
2. Cost effective development environment
By delivering applications through SaaS model, organizations can save a lot of cost. Both financial and infrastructural worries have been sidelined by incorporating cloud computing services for application development. The capital investment required to set up a complex environment for building, testing and deploying custom applications was unfeasible for many small-scale organizations. The subscription models in cloud computing offers the clients the flexibility to spend as per their demand and avoid tying up additional hardware/ software cost.
3. Simple and efficient
Developers can easily access application through a web browser. Even the most complex enterprise level applications are developed without actually getting into technical complications.
4. Optimum utilization of resources
The IT resources are efficiently utilized while application development in cloud. Moreover, applications utilizing virtualized IT services are technically more efficient and responsive to user demands.
5. Multi-device compatibility
Applications running on cloud are delivered efficiently irrespective of the operating system on the device. Thus, a cloud-based application can run on multiple devices allowing the companies to design applications that are compatible with a host of devices.
Application development on cloud-based platform allows you to collaborate with other developers, architects, designers in real-time while developing the application. Collaboration ensures better results and minimizes time to market.
The ability to scale the application up or down is one of the most important benefits on cloud-based applications. Moreover, cloud-based platforms facilitate both vertical and horizontal scaling.
Future of cloud application development
Developers entere in cloud computing through public cloud most probably to beat cost, faster deployment and to attain more flexibility. Traditionally, IT departments have often struggled with changing needs of clients and found it hard to align their operations with market fluctuations. There has been a growing developer and IT team divide with the introduction of cloud computing as developers sidelined traditional IT department.
A systematic approach to development is the need of the hour where development team is free from infrastructure planning and focus solely on the development process. Building upon economies of scale, developers can take snapshots of entire development environment which can either be attended later or allow expert developers to work on it.
Realigning your cloud application development approach
Development process has to be comprehensive and as an organization you should gather wholesome requirements of your business and not just development requirement. The presence of an IT executive and a developer should be central while laying down the requirements. It ensures that your cloud strategy gets unanimous acceptance across the organization and delivers results to your clients.
Concerns over application compatibility on different cloud platforms
As cloud computing is emerging, many developers have expressed concerns over compatibility of cloud applications on different platforms. Lack of consistency in cloud APIs has been a cause of concern among many developers. The Simple Cloud API is a common API to access cloud application services offered by multiple vendors.
Is cloud application development suitable for your business?
Coming back to the question regarding the suitability of application development for your business; cloud application development is indeed the future of application development considering its economic benefits. But experts have argued that development should not be entirely focused on cost savings rather it should be on agile development and business objectives as well. Too much emphasis on cost dissolves the purpose of cloud offerings. Many organizations are using cloud to test their ideas on their customers using a minimum viable product. This helps the organizations to know whether they are moving on the right track. The faster you go towards cloud application development, the higher will be your ability to respond to business opportunities.